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Fridley Fire Dept. Helps Fight Gas Station Blaze in Columbia Heights

The Speedy Mart at 40th and University is a total loss.

The Fridley Fire Department sent an engine and an aerial truck to help Columbia Heights fight a fire at the Speedy Mart gas station at 40th and University avenues NE Tuesday night.

The gas station building is a total loss, according to Columbia Heights Fire Chief Gary Gorman.

Columbia Heights fire trucks were dispatched shortly before 10 p.m., with Fridley's rigs and a truck from St. Anthony following soon after.

No one was injured, Gorman said in an interview about an hour after the first alarm. The first firefighting crew on the scene observed the fire in the ceiling area but got out before the roof collapsed at about 10 p.m.

That meant fighting a defensively from outside the building, Gorman said. Columbia Heights aerial truck doused the fire from high above University Avenue to the west, joined soon by Fridley's aerial truck doing the same from the south along 40th Avenue NE.

Allina was on the scene, as were Xcel Energy and CenterPoint Energy to cut power and gas, and Columbia Heights Public Works Department.

'Not an Extreme Threat'
Gorman said it was important to keep the "flames from getting near the pumps. ... Gasoline is always on the back of our mind," as well as chemicals stored inside or near the building.

The structure fire, if kept away from the gasoline pumps and a liquid petroleum filling station on the north side of the property, was "not an extreme threat," Gorman said.

The gas pumps have safety devices, he said.

Another concern: "We're having issues with water pressure."

Inside the store, the first crew on the scene reported that the fire appeared to be in the ceiling area. Everyone got out and then "the whole room caved in," Gorman said.

Shortly after 10 p.m., the front awning of the building fell to the ground, narrowly missing several firefighters including one who appeared to have been knocked over or fallen, but Gorman said no one had been taken away for medical attention.

"It will be a few days before we know what caused it," Gorman said. His department would be investigating, he said, including gathering information from the station's owner and employees.

Customers and Neighbors
Rick Ness and his daughter Amanda, who live nearby, watched the Speedy Mart burn from across 40th Avenue NE. Both are regular customers; Rick Ness said that when he was in the store Tuesday morning, all looked normal.

They said they thought the store's closing time Tuesday was 10 p.m., although on some nights, closing is at 9 p.m.

Rick Ness said shelves on the north side of the store's interior hold "lots" of oil and transmission fluid for retail sale. He also pointed out the liquid petroleum tank to the north of the building, next to a fence with a daycare next door. On the east side of the building's exterior were containers of grease, he said. 

Amanda Ness said a newer feature at the Speedy Mart was "a good sub shop."

She mentioned that she liked to stop at the store for "cheap Now & Laters."

She thought for a moment.

"They're all melted now," she said, as the structure blazed behind her.

Editor's Note: You can upload photos or video to this post. Or email them to chris.steller@patch.com.

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